The Women’s Media Center and BBC America– who just launched the newest season of ‘Doctor Who’ with the first ever female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker— teamed up to conduct a study among young people regarding role models in science fiction and superhero media and the results are predictable: There isn’t enough equal representation and “confirms that representation onscreen can positively affect child’s confidence, career trajectory, and overall self-image.” This summer, the survey was conducted with 2,431 girls and boys aged 10-19 and parents of children aged 5-9, who answered on behalf of their child.
Everyone said that they wanted to see more female sci-fi/superhero characters– 88% of parents of girls 5-9, 85% of girls 10-19, 75% of parents of boys 5-9 and even 69% of boys 10-19. 74% of girls wanted to see more heroes that look like them, and that percentage breaks down to 83% African American, 76% Hispanic, and 70% Caucasian. Among boys, 68% said they wanted more heroes that looked like them, with 82% being African American, 74% Hispanic and 62% being Caucasian. (No mention of Asian American. Hmmm.)
Not surprisingly, when asked which heroes that they could relate to or look like them, the #1 choice among girls was Wonder Woman, while boys favored Batman. Black Panther came in at #2 among African Americans.
Then, when the participants were asked if they felt confident and brave, the girls’ answers were all lower than the boys, and when asked if they felt that they were not listened to, the girls’ numbers were much higher.
You can get the detailed results below in this infographic released by the Women’s Media Center and BBC America:
Things are changing, but maybe not quickly enough. DC Comics and Mattel launched the DC Superhero Girls initiative in 2015, which included toys and an online cartoon series, but that appears to have cooled considerably. Now Marvel and Hasbro have kicked off Marvel Rising, a similar toy line, but in this case, the accompanying cartoons air on regular television on Disney XD. Plus, in all honesty, the Marvel name carries a lot more cache than DC among the general public.
But as far as DC, while most of their movies struggle, ‘Wonder Woman’ was a huge success and even though ‘Suicide Squad’ wasn’t as lucrative, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a breakout star. (Although that really wasn’t a family movie.) But DC has films based on ‘Birds of Prey’, ‘Batgirl’ and ‘Supergirl’ reportedly in the works. And the sequel, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ will be out next winter. On TV, they also have ‘Supergirl’ on The CW.
Marvel has done a great job of showcasing strong female characters, many of whom steal scenes in their respective movies, but this year’s ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ was the first time a female hero had her name in the title and next year’s ‘Captain Marvel’ will be the first film with only a female character’s name as the title. A ‘Black Widow’ movie is also on the way, and there has been talk of an all-female team-up movie. For older girls, Hulu’s ‘Runaways’ includes several female characters, and one half of Freeform’s ‘Cloak & Dagger’ is female.